In the first quarter of 2017, Orlando-based Massey Services announced the purchase of Insight Pest Solutions of Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., and Charleston, S.C. “We are pleased to welcome the Insight Pest Solutions team members and customers to the Massey Services organization,” said Chairman and CEO Harvey Massey. “We look for companies who have a reputation for exceptional customer service and Insight Pest Solutions has demonstrated a strong commitment to their team members, their customers and our environment.” The joining of the two firms expands Massey Services’ presence into the North and South Carolina markets. Massey currently has residential service centers in Charleston, Columbia and Greenville, S.C. The firm provides service to customers throughout Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina and Oklahoma.
Eight years ago, Scottie Yant decided it was time to pull out all the stops and see exactly where his company, Ace Exterminating of Joelton, Tenn., could go.
“After plugging away for about 20 years, I realized Ace wasn’t growing at the rate I knew it could,” Yant shares. “When I read ‘Think and Grow Rich,’ I realized that I didn’t have to be the smartest person; I just needed to surround myself with competent people. So that’s what I did: I hired people who were smart and confident, who could find better ways to do things.”
One of those people was Johnnie Hunter, now Ace’s vice president. Hunter came to the firm with an open mind and a commitment to reenergizing the company. He reports the company has grown revenues from $1.6 million in 2008 to $6.4 million in 2016. “We’ve grown steadily in the 18- to 20-percent range over the past several years,” he says. “Last year, we opened three new branches (for a total of six), and we plan to open three more each year for the next five years.”
How are they growing so aggressively? Ace has stepped up efforts in three areas:COMMUNICATION. Hunter credits the open dialogue between management and technicians, and technicians and customers, as the linchpin of Ace’s success. “We tell our technicians that 70 percent of what we do is about communication; the other 30 percent is about the bugs,” he says. Ace’s training program aims to make every technician a great communicator, never leaving a home without either talking face-to-face with the customer or leaving them a message explaining the services provided.Ace takes the extra step of surveying customers by phone or email about their experiences. “We take a CQI (Continuous Quality Improvement) approach, asking customers to rate our performance, share why they assigned us that rating and let us know how we might enhance service for them,” says Hunter. “We also ask if they’d refer us to a friend. That not only gives us a good idea of where we stand with them but also encourages word-of-mouth referrals.”
MARKETING. Creating a stronger digital presence via its website and social media outlets also has fueled Ace’s fire. Hunter says, “We worked with an SEO (search engine optimization) company and several social media experts to build brand awareness, and these efforts really paid off. We decided to build an in-house marketing department to keep these efforts going, and to continue identifying and implementing new ideas for promoting our brand.”TECHNOLOGY. Hunter and Yant believe in leveraging technology as it becomes the standard for efficient operations and customer service. “Technology advances quickly. If you don’t keep up, you’ll get left behind,” Hunter says.
Above all else, Yant and Hunter agree that it’s the commitment of Ace employees that has turned the company into such a fast-growing contender. “Every person on our team knows we want to keep growing,” Yant says. “We don’t just ask our people to do things. We help them understand our goals and how we intend to reach them. We’re all very excited to be pulling in the same direction to make that happen.”
Heroes don’t always wear capes and fly; sometimes they travel by truck, come carrying organic pesticide and look a lot like the technicians at Modern Pest Services, Brunswick, Maine.
After a multi-stage rebranding campaign in 2013, the company has successfully positioned itself as trusted and knowledgeable professionals who can be a hero for their customers who are dealing with pest control woes.
“Our ‘hero’ embodies our commitment to being consistently prompt, efficient, polite and helpful,” said Danielle Beckwith, marketing manager for Modern Pest Services. “Our messaging reinforces that we will get the job done right or come back as many times as needed until it is solved — guaranteed.”
Thinking of rebranding your company? Beckwith said don’t be afraid to get help from a professional marketing firm.
“Having an outsider come in and take an honest look at your company can be very insightful and refreshing,” she said. “They can help provide a fresh understanding of your target audience and drill down to the specifics on how your business is different from the competition.”
KHJ, a Boston-based ad agency, helped develop Modern’s heroes campaign, which has been consistently successful.
“Since rebranding, we have seen a very nice and steady increase in our client referrals especially, meaning more customers are sending their friends and family to us, which is invaluable,” said Beckwith.
Another positive result of the campaign was that Modern got to know its target market a lot better. “Modern has learned and gained a clear understanding of who our target market is, and what exactly that individual looks like on a more personal level,” said Beckwith. “This has allowed us to make sure that all of our marketing efforts speak directly to that individual.”
Getting personal with customers meant really looking hard at the message Modern wanted to communicate.
“While it would be nice to be everything to everyone, that approach is not very effective because your messaging will not resonate with any one person. Essentially it will get lost,” said Beckwith. “Therefore, it has forced us to look more carefully at what we wish to bring to the table in regards to our service, and what we as a company can do to help our target customer believe in our mission ‘to be the most highly recommended pest management professionals in the nation.’”
Although Modern was able to streamline its message, Beckwith has never stopped testing. Whether it’s web and user experience or print and media messaging, she said they are continually analyzing customer feedback, which keeps Modern ahead of emerging trends, and has given them the opportunity to play with new marketing tactics and initiatives.
“Before rebranding, we had not fully utilized social media as a marketing and advertising platform,” she said. “We have since created a social media marketing strategy, which included creating new profiles on several social [media] sites relevant to our target audience.”
Beckwith said that just by sharing educational and useful content, Modern has been able to establish greater brand awareness and grow its audience by more than 5,000 Facebook followers in just one year.
TAKE BACK YOUR BACKYARD. Another new marketing opportunity was Modern’s Take Back Your Backyard campaign. The campaign was Modern’s first crack at a large-scale contest, and gave them the opportunity to engage a brand new audience of potential customers in a fun, yet purposeful way.
“We understand that many of our target customers won’t call us until they experience a pest problem; however, a lot more folks in our market deal with tick and mosquito concerns, providing Modern the opportunity to expose them to our services and our brand,” said Beckwith. “With this campaign, we provided our target audience with the chance to win a ‘backyard makeover’ which included a season of tick and mosquito service, allowing the winner to fully enjoy and take back their yard and have peace of mind.”
Although Modern was the one doling out the prizes, the firm was a winner itself.
The company did see an increase in new tick and mosquito services during the contest, but one of the main goals of the contest was simply to build brand awareness. With thousands of entrants and even more impressions, Beckwith dubbed it a success. They also were able to use the contest to collect contact information and develop a list of potential customers to whom a marketing campaign could be directed.
“The strongest benefit of contesting, from a marketing perspective, is list building,” she said. “By developing a follow-up plan for after the contest, it allowed us to continue to reach out to the people who wanted to ‘take back their backyard’ and extend the conversation with them.”
Another win for Modern was the positive PR they received from simply delivering the prizes, as well as promoting the names and experiences of the winners.
According to Beckwith, Modern plans to hold its Take Back Your Backyard contest again this year, but on an even bigger scale. They plan to run the campaign in all of their markets, and will also have additional small, weekly prizes leading up to the grand prize winner.
And as always, Beckwith and her team will continue to learn from their campaigns — whether it’s Modern’s heroes or giving away a backyard paradise — and constantly evolve to develop the most effective communication with their customer. —Laura Straub
As a classic entrepreneur, Aptive Environmental Founder and Chairman David Royce thrives on the challenges and opportunities inherent with a start-up business. Three times he’s launched and flipped pest control businesses, the most recent being Alterra, a $75 million operation he sold to Terminix in November 2015.
Just one month later, in December 2015, Royce launched Aptive Environmental. The name Aptive comes from combining words in the phrase “proactive approach” — which is what Aptive strives to provide as part of what Royce calls “the smarter approach to pest control.” In just one year’s time, the Provo, Utah-based firm opened 29 offices, generating more than $37 million in revenues to rank #21 on the 2017 PCT Top 100 list.
How did Aptive grow so fast, so quickly? Part of the answer is found with the sale of Alterra to Terminix. As with other deals Royce made with the Memphis, Tenn.-based firm, he retained his core leadership and his sales force. Aptive is a great example of a company that effectively uses door-to-door sales to rapidly build customer volume; in Aptive’s case, many of these sales professionals are college students comfortable with cold calling.
“We were able to retain the same executive team, the same marketing arm and sales force, and one key operator for each location,” Royce said. “Most of our time has been spent hiring new technicians and customer service staff, training everybody and recreating all of our training manuals and training videos.”
Royce also cited as a growth driver the expansion of Aptive’s Internet marketing in its call center. “It’s really a combination of our sales force and marketing, and our referral program.”
Another key to Aptive’s success has been its appeal to the millennial workforce. Aptive provides employees with modern amenities, and places emphasis on finding unique and different ways to express employee appreciation. Royce said the Aptive company culture more closely resembles that of tech companies. “I don’t think Silicon Valley should have all the fun. Any industry can be unique and differentiate simply by focusing on things like amenities, activities and retreats.”
What’s different this time around is that Royce, who recently turned 40, has “taken some chips off the table”; he serves as chairman, while the day-to-day operations are run by his long-tenured leadership team of CEO Vess Pearson; Chief Experience Officer Derrick Royce; COO Heath Avery; CFO Steve Eliason; and Entomologist Trent Frazer. “One of my favorite quotes from Gandhi is ‘A sign of a good leader is not how many followers you have, but how many leaders you create.’”
Royce believes this new leadership has brought a breath of fresh air to the company and infused it with new ideas. What’s next for Aptive? Already this year, Aptive has expanded to Washington, Colorado, Michigan and central New Jersey, but Royce said the goal is “not to build a bigger company, but to build a better one. We always want to be thinking about what we can be doing to be a frontrunner in our industry. What we can be doing unique and different.” — Brad Harbison
Rentokil Steritech has acquired Apopka, Fla.-based Heron Home & Outdoor, a $20 million business that ranked #39 on this year’s PCT Top 100. The acquisition strengthens Rentokil Steritech’s presence in Florida and provides the company with expansion opportunities in the country’s largest pest control market.
Heron was founded in 2002 by Joe Patti, Rodney Lackey and Steve Okros, pest control industry veterans who had previously worked for Middleton Lawn & Pest Control. From a small, start-up venture, Heron has grown steadily throughout the years, now employing more than 200 people with nine offices throughout Florida. Existing employees will stay on to help guarantee a seamless transition for Heron customers, Rentokil Steritech said in a press release.
“This new partnership is very exciting, as we expand our reach and services in the central Florida market to best serve our residential customers,” John Myers, president and CEO, Rentokil Steritech, said in a press release. “The company values of Heron and Rentokil Steritech are aligned, as both teams are deeply committed to delivering exceptional customer service. We are thrilled to have acquired such a strong management team and are excited to also expand commercial pest services to Heron in this market.”
In 2014, Heron added Greg Clendenin, a 38-year industry veteran, whose background includes leadership positions at Sears Authorized Termite and Pest Control and Middleton Lawn & Pest Control, where he managed Patti, Lackey and Okros. As part of the deal, Clendenin will stay on with Rentokil Steritech, overseeing the Heron operation (Patti, Lackey and Okros will be leaving the business). “We have a lot of respect for Greg and him staying on was a really important component [of the deal],” Myers told PCT.
Clendenin, in the Rentokil Steritech press release, commented, “We admire the growth-oriented nature of Rentokil Steritech and we couldn’t be more enthusiastic to embark on this partnership together.”
The Heron acquisition is significant for Rentokil Steritech as it marks the company’s second major purchase in Florida. Rentokil Steritech’s other major purchase in the Sunshine State was the 2015 acquisition of Oliver Exterminating Corp., which includes entities Arizona Exterminating, Guarantee Floridian Pest Control and Oliver Exterminating of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Oliver has 16 offices — including four in Florida.
“We felt it was important to improve our position in Florida because of the great opportunities we see today and we see going into the future,” Myers said.
PCT reached out to Florida-based industry consultant and M&A specialist Kemp Anderson for his assessment of this deal. “If you look at the Rentokil model and footprint, clearly they are addressing a gap in the U.S. footprint by acquiring Heron. When Rentokil acquired Oliver, the bulk of that business is actually in Arizona and the Caribbean with a small amount primarily in southeast Florida and Miami. So the Oliver acquisition, while very meaningful, did not really address Florida for Rentokil. Heron addresses Florida in several ways.”
One of the critical ways is the addition of Heron’s lawn care expertise. In Heron, Rentokil Steritech is acquiring a company in which 65 percent of its revenues are from lawn care. “[Rentokil Steritech] has some businesses with lawn care as a component, but it’s certainly not a large part of our portfolio,” Myers said. “We clearly recognize that in Florida customers like a combined offering — if you are going to operate in Florida you have to have it. Heron has done a really good job in that space. We feel like we are going to be in a really good market with a really good company.”
It will be interesting to see how Rentokil Steritech’s acquisition will reshape Florida’s pest control industry in years to come. Anderson said it could signal the beginning of big changes for the Sunshine State. “It seems fairly straightforward that this is the beginning of what will probably be several years of active mergers and acquisitions in Florida for Rentokil, and the other larger pest control companies. Time will tell what it does to valuations; however, it is hard to imagine valuations declining in Florida in the coming years.”